Sown with Tears
By Anthony Casperson

It’s incredibly easy to fall into the typical assumption that as long as we followers of Jesus remain faithful to God, then even in our distressing situations we’ll eventually come to a better end. That’s the “expectation of future change” that most presume is meant in the word “hope.”

Anyone who has read many of the blogs I’ve written will know that I view hope as standing confidently in the security of God and the surety of his steadfast love. It’s based off of the security of God’s ever-faithful presence and the promises of his word. We stand firm, no matter the chaos swirling around us that wants to topple us into despair. There’s a spiritual growth, a harvest of godliness, that can be found in even the most difficult of situations.

As long as we maintain the proper perspective.

I was recently reminded of a passage that speaks to this perspective—if we don’t only read the “expectation of future change” definition of hope into it. This passage is Psalm 126.

Among the first things noticed in the psalm is that it’s one of the Songs of Ascent. These fifteen psalms—from Psalm 120-134—form a medley that Israelite travelers would sing as they approached Jerusalem and ascended the heights of the mountain on which it rests. The songs readied the people for worship by reminding them of the work of God throughout various moments of Israelite history.

In particular, Psalm 126 reminds the people of the restoration that happened after the Babylonian exile. This post-exilic return to the land that God had promised and brought about because of his amazing work.

With the first verse, we could point to the concept expected future change in the words, “when the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” It seems like it’s saying, “We felt like we needed to pinch ourselves because this blessed change out of the difficulties of exile was too amazing.” And the second verse’s mention of laughter and shouts of joy seems to reiterate this idea.

But notice that it’s not actually the change of circumstances that the people celebrate. Rather, they spend the rest of verse 2 and verse 3 rejoicing in the work of God in their lives. The change didn’t happen because they were faithful, but because God was faithful. The Lord has done great things.

And that would still be true in times when our situation doesn’t change.

The results of the work of God and the fruit it bears are what we should rejoice in, whether or not we’re removed from our difficult circumstances. We can have joy in God’s work in our lives, even when we don’t have a smile on our faces. Because we have a faithful God who stands with us in the difficulties and keeps his promises. And when we lean into that, we can grow spiritually and bear good fruit.

I hear some of you asking, “But Anthony, those verses do talk about a change of circumstances from bad to good. How can you apply the verses in any way other than expecting change?

Well, there is another half of the psalm. And a half that shifts from the reminder of history, to an application of present circumstances. Words which show that even in the tearful moments of difficult circumstances, the fruit of God’s work can still be harvested.

The psalmist calls for God to be the oasis in the midst of desert lands. To be the life-giver for crops that only have the sower’s tears to water them. The weeping river of loss that covers the work of sown seed.

And because of God’s faithful work, there will be a harvest. Fruit born out of the difficulties of this life. Fruit of joy, yes. But notice again that it’s not expected change that sprouts the fruit. Rather, it’s the faithfulness of God. And there is no promise of this harvest coming with a change of circumstances.

The promise that’s there is that even when our tears fall like rain while we sow the truth of God, he will produce a harvest in our lives. We can grow spiritually, despite the difficulties of this life.

We might weep while we sow, but when we witness the work of God, we can still rejoice in the harvest.

In times of distress and difficulty—even if we’ve been there for years—we can find joy in the work of God and the work he’s doing in our lives. And though sometimes that might come through dream-like changes to our circumstances, quite often that joy can come when we remain in the difficulties, as long as we focus on the faithfulness of our God.